Wal-Mart never seems to be prepared for defeat. Yet another community in a long string of communities has wasted Wal-Mart’s plans to build a 24 hour supercenter. In Plainfield, Illinois, according to the Chicago Tribune, on January 3rd, the Village Board began the New Year right by dashing Wal-Mart’s plans on a vote of 4-2, to the delight of almost 100 residents of Plainfield who came out to fight the store. The newspaper quoted Wal-Mart’s Attorney, John Philipchuck, as saying he was surprised by the outcome. The flaw with Wal-Mart’s Plainfield plan was that the land it coveted was not zoned commercially. The company had to ask the town to rezone from residential to commercial. In the spring of 2000, the Village Board annexed this land, and approved preliminary plans for a residential development on the site. But in October of 2001, in came Wal-Mart with a request to rezone the land to a commercial shopping center district, and the homeowners nearby hit the Wal. Taxpayers in the neighborhood explained that they were not against seeing the property developed — but they never bargained for a round-the-clock superstore, which could have had a very serious adverse impact on the valuations of their homes. “If it passed, our home would be 40 feet from their parking lot,” said resident Rachel Keys. “This whole Wal-Mart issue has put a big damper on our lives.” For now, the burden has been lifted in Plainfield.
Big box proposals are the most vulnerable at the point of rezoning. If land needs to be rezoned, usually the burden for making such a change falls on the applicant, and there is no such thing as “as of right” rezoning, or entitlement to a zoning change. Rezoning is a discretionary act by the permitting board, and many zoning codes have criteria that applicants must satisfy to walk away with a rezoning. In many communities, rezoning also requires a 2/3rds vote of the city or town council. If your zoning code doesn’t require this, amend it. For more information on the Planfield defeat of Wal-Mart, contact [email protected]